Part One in our profile on 32 Degrees
32 Degrees Fahrenheit is the freezing point of water. But, as a company name, 32 Degrees sparks curiosity and a bit of a head-scratch. And that’s the point. According to business partners Peter Drummond and Claire Lamont, they want you to ask them why 32 Degrees is the name of their venture, which is aimed at thoroughly disrupting our ideas, attitudes, and behaviours around ice consumption and cooling technology.
Claire Lamont is from South Africa. She came to Canada about 20 years ago and her background is in marketing. Lamont is the founder and CEO of Smak, specializing in brand purpose, experiential marketing and employee engagement. She is a co-founder of 32 Degrees.
Peter Drummond was born in Montreal. He started his career as a designer but this quickly evolved into strategy and strategy planning—he has been a strategy consultant for the last 25 years. He is a business strategist at his firm PSD&G, Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University and co-founder of 32 Degrees.
Drummond and Lamont met through a business opportunity. Drummond noted that over the last few years, most of his clients have been purpose-driven; focused on sustainability and social impact—for-profit or not necessarily not for profit.
It was a chance conversation and a strange question that set them on an unlikely quest.
A defining moment
Lamont hosted a birthday party for herself. She got big coolers, went to the gas station and grabbed bags of ice to fill these coolers. It was a good old time. The next day Lamont went to clean the coolers out and she found herself dumping litres upon litres of drinkable water down the drain. It was “just this light bulb moment.” The 24-hour journey—ice from the gas station. There’s a cooler at the gas station using electricity to keep the ice-cold, how did it get there? Who made it? How is it processed? And when you think about your bags of ice, the cost per bag, whatever the cost may be: “I paid for it, and then I’m throwing the water away,” says Lamont. She was left with questions and a problem to solve.
The first person she thought of was Drummond.
“Hey Peter, let’s go for a drink.” The two were sitting in an oyster bar and Lamont posed the question: “What do you think about ice?”
They had a hearty discussion. Lamont talked about exactly what had happened on her birthday and about the user experience of ice being “kind of awful.” They considered the sustainability piece, looking at the oyster bar and all the ice underneath the oysters. “And it’s really just there for aesthetics. The oysters could be sitting in the fridge,” says Lamont.
Ice in foodservice is a beast of a problem
Foodservice: this space is a whole different beast. Sitting in the bar, “We were looking at the ice that was in the wine bucket. That’s just drinkable water,” says Lamont. Drinkable water that’s just going back into our lakes and oceans.
Pull a little string, something else unravels
It’s every time we pull a little string, something else unravels. “We’re looking at the oysters and the ice, they have a big machine pounding out crushed ice,” says Drummond. Noting that ice behind a bar or in a restaurant is taken from the same ice machine or bucket and put it into a drink for somebody else.
From Lamont’s bad retail experience—no value, overpriced, complete water waste, drinkable water to all this ice being used for the visual merchandising of seafood, to health and safety issues around ice usage in food and drink establishments. Drummond and Lamont were left with a whole bunch of questions, a whole bunch of issues, but they didn’t know what the real problem was. “That’s what set us on our journey,” says Drummond.
Profits v. social impact
32 Degrees was conceptualized around solving this problem, conducting research, conducting surveys, working within academia and real-world applications to not only solve a problem that no one seems to be talking about. Solving the problem of ice/water wastage includes rethinking water usage, our processes around ice consumption, and democratizing cooling technology, which has life-altering implications for societies in every corner of the world.
And despite the collective good that comes of solving these problems, 32 Degrees aims to be successful. “A lot of people think that we’re not for profit. I’m like, ‘No, no. We’re a for-profit business,’ says Lamont.
“Just with social impact,” finishes Drummond.
And there’s precedent out there suggesting that it is much more effective for organizations, NGOs and charities to work for profit. The social impact is much greater (check out TED Talk: The way we think about charity is dead wrong with Dan Palotta).
Says Drummond: “My personal values, I guess, have kind of pushed my real job into the space of social impact and sustainability. Purpose-driven work to help commercial business problems. But in that bucket, I would put education systems and healthcare systems. To make money, they’ve got to start thinking that way. Even not for profits, they got to start thinking like businesses.”
Curiosity is the mother of innovation
Lamont and Drummond began 32 Degrees as a problem-solving venture. They sat at a literal round table with three colleagues over two full days. There was an ‘Everest’ of a glacier of information before them. It began with identifying the two largest commercial applications for ice and cooling (food and hospitality, and medical institutions). Poke, poke, poke—they explored everything they might consider around the problem of ice. “It took us a couple of years in Queens working with students to really hit the Aha! moment. In the beginning, we were really thinking about the front of house use of ice. But, before you even think about front of house, potentially 70 per cent of the water is being wasted before a cube is even made. There’s the problem,” says Drummond.
“Then we had to think about the upstream challenge. This isn’t just about a bartender pouring hot water over ice at the end of the night to clean an ice well. This is where is it being made and what is the impact and why is it being made that way?” Lamont explains that every question led to more questions and realizations.
Ice, Ice Baby
The team conducted a life cycle analysis of water in an establishment. From the moment it hits a building, what’s the process? What are the steps? What are the cost structures, what are the barriers, what are the technologies? And this includes human factors and logistics when, say, the bar is on the third floor and the ice machine is in the basement. “We know how many times somebody’s taking that up, so we know the labour cost to carry the whole bucket up to the third floor. We know the labour cost to clean the machine out and electrical costs,” says Drummond.
DYK? 160,000 litres of water is used to create ice in an average ice-making machine. Over 120,000 litres of that goes right “back to the lake.” And that’s not including water-cooled machines. So a lot of them have been outlawed here in Canada, but around the world, there are still tons of water-cooled ice machines. So it’s taking water to cool the compressor. Drinkable water is wasted.
When you start adding things up, you are looking at about 70 per cent of water being wasted in the foodservice space. Drinkable water.
Human behaviour is cool
Our behaviours, habits and attitudes around ice don’t make sense.
The moment we walk into a food or drink establishment, we are presented with a glass of water, and 90 per cent of the time there’s ice in it. Are we drinking that water, are we using it, do we need it? It’s not only about disrupting technology, it’s about valuing water and changing our attitudes and habits around water consumption. It’s about our attitudes and awareness of the need for water preservation.
There is high waste from the processes around ice and cooling. Drummond and Lamont are pretty convinced they understand the problem, but the remaining challenge is parsing the problem out as a cooling issue or an ice issue. It’s most likely there are multiple answers to this problem…
Read the next installment of our feature on 32 Degrees in Part Two of the series…